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Singapore fears economic impact of coronavirus will exceed SARS



Singapore’s economy “will take a hit” from the spreading coronavirus, Prime Minister Lee Loong, said on Friday while inspecting health screening measures at the city-state’s international airport.

Lee said that the economic impact of the disease, also known as Covid-19, will likely top that of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2003.

SARS which resulted in reduced commerce and travel across East and South-east Asia, saw Singapore’s wealthy, trade-based economy shrink by 0.3 per cent during that year’s second quarter.

The coronavirus death toll has already exceeded that of SARS.

Lee warned that, although Singapore was free of SARS within four months, the timetable for coronavirus “may not be so fast.”

He said that coronavirus would have a bigger impact as “economies of the region are much more interlinked together.’’

“China, particularly, is a much bigger factor in the region,” Lee added.

China accounted for 17 per cent of Singapore’s exports and 19 per cent of visitors in 2019, more than double the numbers during the SARS crisis, when China’s gross domestic product was roughly one-eighth its current size.

The Singapore Government will announce its 2020 Budget on April 18.

Measures are expected to counter the likely impact of reduced trade with and tourism from China, with the Finance Ministry pledging “targeted support to the sectors that have been more directly affected”.

Singapore’s GDP growth dropped from 3.1 per cent in 2018 to 0.7 per cent in 2019, largely due to disruptions to electronics exports caused by the China-U.S. trade war.

Lee said on Friday that a recession is “possible” this year.

Edited By: Fatima Sule/Isaac Aregbesola

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